Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 4 - Episode 3: "The Big Freeze"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: March 03, 1956

Writer: David Chantler

Director: Harry Gerstad

Guest Cast:
Eddie Baker as The Guard
John Phillips as The Voter
Richard Reeves as Little Jack
Rolfe Sedan as Doctor Watts
George E. Stone as Duke Taylor

"The Big Freeze"

It's election time in Metropolis. Mayor George Wilson is running against Duke Taylor's crooked candidate Buckley. Should Buckley win office, the city will be wide open for various gambling and organized crime rackets. Taylor and his henchman Little Jack will put a man at every voting station to make sure their candidate wins. They even prepared for the eventuality that Superman will do everything he can to make certain everything is honest. An eccentric scientist named Doctor Watts has devised a means to rid the Man of Tomorrow of his superhuman abilities. Is his invention legitimate, or is Doctor Watts merely another mad man seeking glory?

As the Daily Planet prepares editorials to urge citizens to get out and vote, Doctor Watts brings Duke and Little Jack to his laboratory. There, the scientist has created a room lined with lead. Anything inside it will be frozen at two thousand degrees below zero. Watts believes that his invention will even work on Superman. Once the Man of Steel is on ice, his powers will be gone for at least a week. If Doctor Watts' machine works, Duke Taylor can put his plans of taking over Metropolis into motion by making Buckley the city's mayor.

Reporters Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent receive messages to meet Duke Taylor. Lois and Jimmy are to be at the corner of Elm and Central Streets at 12:15 PM, and Clark is to go to Doctor Watts' lab at noon sharp. Taylor tells Kent that Lois and Jimmy are trapped in the room with the lead walls and door. Clark is to contact Superman about this. If the police arrive, Duke will kill Lois and Jimmy. Clark suspects that he will walk into a trap as Superman, but if he doesn't, the costumed hero believes his friends could be doomed.

Superman bursts into the lead lined room, only to be sprayed with Doctor Watts' chemicals. Now, the Metropolis Marvel is frozen and powerless. Lois and Jimmy, having been brought to the lab afterwards by Duke and Little Jack, wish to help Superman. However, he feels that mayoral election is more important. If honest people can be encouraged to vote, Duke Taylor and Buckley will not gain an upper hand even without Superman's intervention.

Having used make-up to color himself, Superman is now in his guise of Clark Kent. News of his condition is spreading like wildfire thanks to Lois telling Mayor Wilson in front of his secretary. There is no way to legally postpone the election, and voters could very well be intimidated by Duke Taylor's thugs to vote for Buckley. With Superman out of commission, there may be no way to stop Taylor's reign of terror.

Duke, Little Jack and Doctor Watts are celebrating their victory over Superman. However, the festive occasion is cut short when Watts asks for the fifty-thousand dollars Taylor promised to pay him. Duke doesn't have the funds now, but he claims he'll have them in a couple of months. This is unsuitable for Watts. He wants the money now. The racketeer now has no intention of giving it to the eccentric scientist. Doctor Watts craves for revenge. One way or another, Superman will find out who and what made him the frozen Man of Steel.

So far, Buckley is ahead of Mayor Wilson. Duke Taylor's goons are posted at voting stations all over the city. Doctor Watts has just entered the office of Daily Planet editor Perry White. He gives Clark Kent a message for Superman. An intense heat, like that of a blast furnace, could thaw him out. However, it may also kill him. Superman will have to test Doctor Watts' theory. If it succeeds, Duke Taylor will no longer bully the people of Metropolis. If it fails, Superman will meet certain death.

As Buckley edges closer to being the mayor of Metropolis, Clark has gone to the local iron works. Even though it's closed for election day, the blast furnaces are still turned on. Superman goes inside to expose himself to the intense heat. He feels his powers and abilities return to him. Very soon, Duke Taylor is going to realize that Superman is back in action, ready to stop the gangster at every turn.

Duke and Little Jack are at a voting center making sure Buckley wins when a man enters. The criminals' strong arm tactics are short lived when Superman arrives. Little Jack unsuccessfully uses a chair against the caped hero's back. In an effort to welcome Superman back, the voter knocks out Duke Taylor and Little Jack. Now, the people of Metropolis have the freedom to choose their mayor without the fear of being bullied or threatened. Superman has returned to make sure the election is won honestly.

George Wilson is once again the mayor of Metropolis. The staff of the Daily Planet is rejoicing as they prepare the newspaper's next edition with the headline "Wilson Wins". Clark Kent is happy to be back in action both as the Man of Steel and as the mild mannered reporter working on the front page story. Once again, freedom and democracy have won thanks to Superman.

2Rating - 2 (out of 5): Eddie Baker was the bartender in "The Bully of Dry Gulch". Baker was also one of the original Keystone Kops and later did work for Hal Roach.

John Phillips was the plainclothes officer in "The Lucky Cat". He is perhaps best known for the role of Kirk Bennet, the man falsely accused of murdering Mavis Marlowe, in the 1946 film noir classic Black Angel.

Richard Reeves makes his final appearance in The Adventures of Superman with this episode. However, he will work for Whitney Ellsworth again in the 1961 unaired pilot for The Adventures of Superboy. Unfortunately, that series never went beyond that episode.

Rolfe Sedan will be fondly remembered as the postman Mister Briggs in The Addams Family and the train conductor in the Mel Brooks classic Young Frankenstein.

George E. Stone was Big George in "Olsen's Millions". Stone played Toothpick Charlie in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot, which starred Marilyn Monroe.

Notice the King Chemical Company sign as a frozen Clark Kent walks by a building. Apparently, they are still in operation after Charlie King was arrested in "The Lucky Cat". Perhaps the business is under new management.

The acting and visual effects are great, and they are the saving graces of this episode. However, they cannot rescue it because it is riddled with plot holes. I found myself scratching my head in confusion a few times due to the fact that some things do not make any sense even in 1956 Superman continuity.

Superman's costume - it's been established in "Superman On Earth" by Sarah Kent that nothing could harm it. Yet in "The Big Freeze" it's frozen. Now, one could say that it technically was not hurt in any way, but wouldn't it stand to reason that cold would do nothing to the fabric if heat doesn't cause problems? Seeing the suit all white seems to violate the series' canon for me.

I could be wrong, but I believe the comic books did mention that Superman's powers are derived from Earth's yellow sun even in 1956. Even if the ice was still probably cold enough to not melt in the sun when Superman went outside, it would have been better to have him use a rocket or missile to fly to the sun. That would have been nicer to see than the Man of Steel merely walking into a blast furnace. Stock footage could have been easily used for the space travel. Plus, freezing Superman to block his power just made no sense to me.

While we are on the subject of Superman's powers, let's discuss how they were not quite used to their full potential in "The Big Freeze". Okay, the big guy can't see through lead. That's been part of the mythos for a long time. Now, here's where I call the episode on the carpet. Superman has superhuman hearing. He should be able to listen for the voices and/or heartbeats of Lois and Jimmy instead of charging into a trap like a bull in a china shop.

I kind of liked how Duke Taylor and Little Jack were written into "The Big Freeze". Doctor Watts gets irritating after a couple of minutes, but Duke and Jack were well done. Something about them reminded me of some of the villains in some of The Adventures of Superman radio serials. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed those characters so much. In general, the radio program is an all-time favorite of mine. It's too bad that Duke Taylor and Little Jack were not sufficient to help this episode to be better. If you want a good story in this series, watch something written by Jackson Gillis instead.

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